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Emergency declared in California as cruise ship delayed off shore

Here's the latest on the coronavirus outbreak.
Image: The Grand Princess cruise ship passes the Golden Gate Bridge as it arrives from Hawaii in San Francisco
The Grand Princess cruise ship passes the Golden Gate Bridge as it arrives from Hawaii in San Francisco on Feb. 11, 2020.Scott Strazzante / AP file

California has declared an emergency over the coronavirus outbreak, as tests continue Thursday on board a Princess cruise ship that has been linked to two cases of the illness in the state.

The first death in California related to coronavirus was confirmed Wednesday, while another fatality in Washington brought that state's death toll to 10.

Congressional leaders have agreed on an $8 billion emergency funding package to help fight the coronavirus that is headed to the House.

The virus is now spreading more rapidly outside China, where the epidemic started, with mainland China recording just 119 new confirmed cases while hundreds of cases were reported globally.

South Korea alone recorded an additional 516 cases of coronavirus Wednesday, bringing the total to 5,328 confirmed cases, the largest outbreak outside of mainland China.

Governments around the world are introducing a range of measures to stop the spread of the disease. In Italy, where there have been more than 2,000 cases, all schools and colleges are shut for 10 days.

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Illinois county confirms new patient with coronavirus

The second largest county in the U.S. is reporting its third case of coronavirus. 

Officials in Cook County, Illinois, which includes Chicago, said on Saturday that the patient has been hospitalized and is in isolation. State and local public health officials are calling it a presumptive case of coronavirus until the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention confirm lab results. 

Health officials also said they are working to determine who the patient came in contact with and will actively monitor those people to prevent further transmission. The state will request that the CDC deploy a team to support these efforts.

In January, a husband and wife in Chicago were diagnosed with coronavirus. The wife had recently traveled to Wuhan, China, the epicenter of the outbreak, to care for her father. Both patients made a full recovery.

More than 1,000 new confirmed cases in the last 24 hours reported outside of China

Fueled by hundreds of new cases in South Korea, Italy and Iran, more than 1,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19 have been reported outside of mainland China in the last 24 hours, according to an NBC News analysis of information from the World Health Organization, state government leaders and health officials. This is the greatest single-day increase in confirmed cases outside of China since the coronavirus first surfaced. 

While mainland China reported 573 new cases in the last day, approximately 1,500 new cases were reported in the rest of the world. Also, 61 deaths and nearly 3,000 recoveries were reported, bringing the total fatalities to 2,973 and total recoveries to more than 41,000.

Image: Washington State Health Officials Give Update On Coronavirus Cases In Seattle Area, After First Death Reported
Healthcare workers transport a patient on a stretcher into an ambulance at Life Care Center of Kirkland in Kirkland, Washington. Dozens of staff and residents at Life Care Center of Kirkland are reportedly exhibiting coronavirus-like symptoms, with two confirmed cases associated with the nursing facility reported so far.David Ryder / Getty Images

'It's all hands on deck:' Pence on U.S. response to coronavirus threat

Vice President Mike Pence says that when it comes to stopping the spread of coronavirus in the United States, "it's all hands on deck."

In an interview airing Sunday on NBC’s “Meet The Press,” Pence said federal agencies were "leaning into" President Donald Trump's directives to "mitigate" the virus' impact on U.S. soil, which includes expanding travel restrictions outside the country.

Watch "Meet the Press with Chuck Todd" Sunday at 9 a.m. ET or check local listings.

On Saturday, Trump and Pence announced additional travel restrictions involving Iran and increased warnings about travel to areas of Italy and South Korea hit by coronavirus. Travel from China to the U.S. has already been restricted. 

"The president’s concern is the health and safety of the American people," Pence said on "Meet the Press." 

When asked whether the White House is worried about potential economic fallout from coronavirus, Pence said the economy "will come back." He also said the president will respect any local or state decisions to close schools if they find it necessary.

"We’re going to focus on the health of the American people," he said.

Northern California county confirms 4th case of coronavirus

Health officials in Santa Clara County, California, on Saturday confirmed a fourth case of coronavirus.

The patient is an adult woman who is "not ill" and has not been hospitalized, the Santa Clara County Public Health Department said. She was described by officials as a "household contact" of the third case in Santa Clara.  

The third case was described last week by public health officials as an older woman with chronic health issues. She had not traveled out of the country nor come into close contact with a known carrier of the virus.

Santa Clara County officials said in a statement that they are bracing for more cases and are preparing for "community spread," a term used when someone is infected but the source is unknown.

U.S. lawmakers demand federal briefing on whistleblower complaint

Three California congressmen who represent districts with military bases that received evacuees from China said Saturday that federal health officials failed to provide a "timely briefing" on their response to coronavirus. 

U.S. Reps. Mark Takano, John Garamendi and Scott Peters, all Democrats, said senior officials at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services did not provide sufficient information following a whistleblower complaint alleging improper training and a lack of safety equipment for HHS workers who handled Americans returning from China.

Takano, Garamendi and Peters are asking federal health officials to provide an updated briefing on how they plan to address the growing coronavirus threat in the United States.

"As the representatives of military bases and communities that housed repatriated Americans and given the threat that these serious allegations may pose to public health, we need answers," the representatives said in a statement. "We called for this briefing because during these difficult times, our constituents and the American people deserve a proactive, level-headed response and honesty from the federal government."

HHS officials said in an emailed statement the agency is taking the whistleblower complaint seriously and will offer testing to any staff members from the department's Administration for Children and Families, which participated in repatriation efforts at the military bases, concerned about exposure to coronavirus.

"This is an intensive process involving significant fact gathering," an HHS spokesperson said in reference to the whistleblower's complaint. "We understand Congress’s desire for information and, for that reason and others, HHS is handling this situation with grave urgency. HHS will fully brief Congress and the public when it has completed its investigation."

'Fight the virus not the people:' Demonstrators march against racism in San Francisco's Chinatown

Hundreds of people gathered in San Francisco's Chinatown on Saturday to march against xenophobia caused by fears of the coronavirus outbreak. 

Demonstrators carried signs that read "Chinatown open for business" and "United we stand together."

California Sen. Scott Wiener, D-San Francisco, tweeted a photo of the gathering, calling coronavirus a "serious public threat" and "not an invitation to racial stereotyping." 

"Fight the virus not the people," he tweeted. 

In Los Angeles, a group representing Koreatown restaurants said business in general was down about 50 percent in the last week after rumors spread that a Korean Air flight attendant with coronavirus had dined in the neighborhood, NBC Los Angeles reported.

As a result, patrons canceled reservations at some restaurants and others called to check whether it was safe to visit the normally bustling area. Los Angeles County Department of Public Health announced Friday that the flight attendant did not have symptoms while in L.A. and did not pose any risk to the general public.

Washington state testing over 50 people for coronavirus

Washington state is currently testing more than 50 people for coronavirus who may have been infected in an outbreak linked to a nursing facility in Kirkland.

Two people linked to the facility, LifeCare, have tested positive: a health care worker in her 40s and a resident of the facility in her 70s.

Test results could come back as early as Saturday afternoon and additional positive cases are expected.

Pence touts 'productive' coronavirus meeting after additional travel restrictions announced

Image: Harborview Medical Center?EUR(TM)s home assessment team carry protective and testing supplies while preparing to visit the home of a person potentially exposed to novel coronavirus at Harborview Medical Center in Seattle
Harborview Medical Center's home assessment team carry protective and testing supplies while preparing to visit the home of a person potentially exposed to novel coronavirus at Harborview Medical Center in Seattle on Feb. 29, 2020.David Ryder / Reuters

UConn cancels official travel to Italy, urges study-abroad students to return to U.S.

The University of Connecticut said Saturday it was canceling all official travel to Italy and urged students already in the country for the university's study-abroad program to return to the United States as soon as possible. 

More than 300 students at UConn participate in overseas academic programs in 29 nations, including 88 in Italy.

The school said its decision to have students return to the U.S. is due to circumstances surrounding coronavirus and comes after the CDC issued new guidance Friday evening. 

"To date, no cases of COVID-19 have been reported in the State of Connecticut or at UConn," the university said in a press release. 

The university had already decided to cancel all official travel to China and South Korea.

China reports plunge in manufacturing activity

Factory activity in China contracted at the fastest pace on record in February, highlighting the damage from the coronavirus outbreak on the world’s second-largest economy, CNBC reported.

China’s official Purchasing Managers’ Index fell to a record low of 35.7 in February from 50.0 in January, the National Bureau of Statistics said on Saturday, well below the 50-point mark that separates monthly growth from contraction.

The somber readings provide the first official snapshot of the state of the Chinese economy since the outbreak of the coronavirus epidemic.

22 coronavirus cases have been diagnosed in the U.S.

A total of 22 cases of the new coronavirus have been diagnosed in the U.S., the Centers for Disease and Control and Prevention said Saturday. This does not include individuals who were evacuated from the Diamond Princess cruise ship or Wuhan, China. 

At least four of the 22 cases are the result of community spread, which means that exact source of exposure is unclear. Community spread can occur when an infected individual has mild symptoms and does not realize that they are sick. 

At least nine patients have recovered, including patients in California, Washington, Arizona, Illinois and Wisconsin. 

During a press briefing Saturday, Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Alex Azar said that most cases are mild to moderate and do not require hospitalization. For example, one of the most recently diagnosed patients, a woman who had traveled from South Korea to Washington, is at home and has not required hospitalization.

How long does the new coronavirus remain active on surfaces?

As a new coronavirus spreads quickly around the world, U.S. health officials say they are "aggressively" assessing how long it can survive on surfaces to better understand the risk of transmission.

Based on what is known about similar coronaviruses, disease experts say the COVID-19 virus is mainly spread  through coughing or sneezing. Contact with fecal matter from an infected person may also transmit the virus.

The CDC says it may be possible for a person to become infected by touching a surface or object that has the virus on it and then touching their own mouth, nose or eyes.

An analysis of earlier studies of similar coronaviruses, including Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), published in the Journal of Hospital Infection, concluded that human coronaviruses can remain infectious on inanimate surfaces for up to nine days at room temperature.

However, they can quickly be rendered inactive using common disinfectants, and may also dissipate at higher temperatures, the authors wrote. It is not yet clear, however, whether the new coronavirus behaves in a similar way.

Washington's governor declares state of emergency after coronavirus death

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee declared a state of emergency to direct agencies to use all resources necessary to prepare for and respond to and outbreak after the nation's first death from coronavirus illness COVID-19 occurred in the state.

“This will allow us to get the resources we need,” Inslee said in a statement. “This is a time to take commonsense, proactive measures to ensure the health and safety of those who live in Washington state."

Trump announces additional travel restrictions and warnings

President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence on Saturday announced additional travel restrictions involving Iran and increased warnings about travel to Italy and South Korea to combat the coronavirus.

The announcement at a White House press conference came after health officials in Washington state announced the first death in the U.S. from COVID-19.

Travel from China to the U.S. has already been restricted and Trump said he was also looking at restrictions on entry from America's southern border.

First coronavirus death in U.S. occurs in Washington state

Health officials in Washington state said on Saturday a coronavirus patient has died.

The death is the first from coronavirus illness COVID-19 in the United States.

Read the full story here.

To speed up coronavirus testing the FDA will allow use of labs

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on Saturday said it will allow laboratories to immediately use tests they have developed and validated to achieve more rapid testing capacity for the coronavirus.

“Under this policy, we expect certain laboratories who develop validated tests for coronavirus would begin using them right away prior to FDA review,” Jeff Shuren, the director of the FDA’s Center for Devices and Radiological Health, said in a statement.

Trump to hold 1:30 p.m. press conference on coronavirus

President Donald Trump announced he will be holding the press conference from the White House. You can watch the livestream at nbcnews.com 

Ecuador announces its first coronavirus case

Ecuador's Health Ministry said Saturday morning that it has confirmed the country's first case of coronavirus.

Minister of Public Health Catalina Andramuño said at a press conference in Spanish that an Ecuadorian citizen who resides in Spain arrived in Ecuador on Feb. 14 without showing any symptoms.

After the woman started feeling "general discomfort" and other symptoms days later, "the appropriate tests for virus and respiratory conditions" were conducted, said Andramuño.

"The coronavirus test came back positive," she said.

The woman is currently in intensive care at a hospital designated to treat coronavirus cases, Andramuño said, adding that the patient is an older person with "other persistent health conditions."

Factory workers in China produce hazardous material suits

The Zhejiang Ugly Duck Industry garment factory in Wenzhou had to stop its production of winter coats due to the coronavirus and instead began making hazardous material suits.

Image: Sewing factory
Workers sewing at a factory making hazardous material suits to be used in the COVID-19 coronavirus outbreak, at the Zhejiang Ugly Duck Industry garment factory in Wenzhou on Feb. 28, 2020.Noel Celis / AFP - Getty Images

France bans large gatherings to slow spread of coronavirus

The French government on Saturday said it is banning public gatherings of more than 5,000 people in an effort to slow the spread of coronavirus, an announcement that comes as the country reports 16 new cases.

“All public gatherings of more than 5,000 people in a confined space are temporarily banned across France,” Health Minister Olivier Veran told journalists Saturday.

He also said that the number of confirmed cases had risen to 73 and that there had been no new deaths.

UK cases of coronavirus climb to 23

The British Department of Health said the number of coronavirus cases in the United Kingdom had risen to 23, as of Saturday at 9 a.m. 

More than 10,480 people in the county have been tested for the virus, with 10,460 of them confirmed as negative, according to the agency. 

Iran's coronavirus death toll rises to 43, the highest outside of China

Iran’s death toll from the coronavirus outbreak has reached 43, a spokesman for the country's Health Ministry, told state TV on Saturday, adding that the number of infected people across the country has reached 593.

“Unfortunately nine people died of the virus in the last 24 hours. The death toll is 43 now. The new confirmed infected cases since yesterday is 205 that makes the total number of confirmed infected people 593,” said Kianush Jahanpur.

Iran, which has the highest death toll outside China, has ordered the shutting of schools until Tuesday and the government has extended the closure of universities and a ban on concerts and sports events for a week.

Kim Jong Un says there will be 'serious consequences' if coronavirus spreads in North Korea

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has called for stronger anti-virus efforts to guard against COVID-19, saying there will be "serious consequences" if the illness spreads to the country.

During a ruling party meeting, Kim called for the country's anti-epidemic headquarters to strengthen screening and tests to seal off all "channels and space through which the infectious disease may find its way," Pyongyang's official Korean Central News Agency, or KCNA, said Saturday.

Kim emphasized that all fields and units of the country should "unconditionally" obey quarantine instructions laid-out by the anti-epidemic headquarters and he called for the strict enforcement of preventive measures against what he described as a tricky virus that spreads rapidly.

"In case the infectious disease spreading beyond control finds its way into our country, it will entail serious consequences," KCNA quoted Kim as saying during the politburo meeting of the Workers' Party.

The North has yet to report its first infection from the new coronavirus, but it has been pushing a tough campaign it has described as a matter of "national existence."

The country has shut down nearly all cross-border traffic, banned tourists, intensified screening at entry points and mobilized tens of thousands of health workers to monitor residents and isolate those with symptoms.

Kuwait urges citizens to avoid traveling

Kuwait has urged its citizens to avoid traveling over concerns of coronavirus contamination, a health ministry official told a media conference Saturday.

The Gulf state has not registered any new coronavirus infections over the past 24 hours, she said.

The total number of people infected with the disease in Kuwait is 45, the health ministry said on Friday. No deaths have been reported there. 

South Korea urges people to stay indoors after biggest daily spike in cases

South Korea urged citizens on Saturday to stay indoors as it warned of a "critical moment" in its battle on the coronavirus after recording the biggest daily jump in infections, with 885 new cases taking the tally to 3,150.

The country is grappling with the largest outbreak of the virus outside China, as a new death took the toll to 17, amid a record daily increase in infections since the country confirmed its first patient on Jan. 20.

"We have asked you to refrain from taking part in public events, including a religious gathering or protest, this weekend," Vice health minister Kim Kang-lip told a briefing.

It was a "critical moment" in reining in the spread of the virus, he said, adding: "Please stay at home and refrain from going outside and minimize contact with other people."

As many as 476 of the new cases were from southeastern Daegu city, the site of a church at the center of the outbreak, and 60 from the nearby province of North Gyeongsang, the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC) said.

Health authorities have run tests on more than 210,000 members and 65,000 trainees of the church linked to a majority of cases after a 61-year-old woman known as "Patient 31" attended religious services there before testing positive.

More than 88 per cent have been checked, and about 3,300 have shown symptoms such as fever, Kim added.

California town wins fight to keep out coronavirus patients from cruise ship

The federal government said it has canceled plans to use an empty Orange County, California, building to house 35 or more Golden State coronavirus patients who were evacuated from the virus-plagued Diamond Princess cruise ship in Asia.

A government filing Friday sought to halt a court challenge by the city of Costa Mesa, which argued that safeguards for locals weren't considered in the transfer of patients from Northern California's Travis Air Force Base to the state-owned Fairview Development Center, a defunct assisted living center in the center of town.

Read the full story here. 

2 new presumptive cases reported in Washington state, including high school student

Washington state health officials on Friday announced two new preliminary positive cases of the coronavirus illness COVID-19, including a high school student with no known travel history or exposure to known infected people.

The cases are being classified as presumptively positive because the tests have come back locally as positive but are pending confirmation from Centers for Disease Control and Prevention testing, said Dr. Kathy Lofy, health officer for the Washington State Department of Health.

A high school student in Snohomish County became ill Monday with fever, body aches and a headache and was seen at two clinics, Snohomish Health District Health Officer Dr. Chris Spitters said.

The student was feeling better and attempted to return to school Friday morning, but a local test result came back with a preliminary positive result. The student returned home before attending class, he said. The student is in home isolation and is doing well.

The last time the student was in class was before any symptoms. A small number of students had contact with the individual and will remain at home for 14 days and be monitored for symptoms, Spitters said. The school campus will be sanitized and closed Monday, and people at the clinics are being notified. Spitters urged people to remain calm and stay informed.

The second new case was a woman in King County in her 50s who had recently visited South Korea, returned to Seattle, went to work Tuesday and had symptoms, Dr. Jeff Duchin, health officer for Public Health — Seattle & King County said. The local test was done Thursday and came back Friday as preliminary positive.

The woman never needed medical care and took care of herself at home and is recovering, Duchin said. Her husband is well and without symptoms and is in home quarantine, he said.

Navy's Pacific Fleet to schedule 14 days between ports amid coronavirus spread

The U.S. Navy’s Pacific Fleet will schedule a minimum of 14 days between ports in order to monitor for symptoms of the coronavirus illness COVID-19, a defense official said.

There are no indications that any Navy personnel has contracted the coronavirus illness, the official said. The coronavirus illness has killed more than 2,800 people in mainland China as of Saturday morning local time, according to China’s National Health Commission. It has also spread to other countries.

The 14 days order is intended to permit adequate time for surveillance and monitoring for the development of symptoms consistent with COVID-19. Fourteen days is the same time period being used by health officials in quarantines in possible exposure cases.

Also Friday, U.S. Forces Korea said that the spouse of a U.S. service member stationed in South Korea who had tested positive for COVID-19 had also tested positive. She has been in self quarantine since Wednesday after her husband’s test, the military said, and was being moved to a U.S. military hospital.

Two students at Palo Alto school district sent home after possible parent exposure

Two students in the Palo Alto Unified School District in California’s Santa Clara County were sent home and will be excluded from school after a parent may have been exposed to the coronavirus illness COVID-19, the superintendent said.

Superintendent Don Austin said in a message to parents Friday that the district acted as a precautionary measure. One is a student at Palo Alto Senior High School and the other attends JLS Middle School, he wrote.

Austin stressed in an email that there are zero cases in the district, but "we have a parent who was exposed to a confirmed case."

"We have no parents, staff or students with reported symptoms," Austin said.

There are three confirmed cases in Santa Clara County, including one announced Friday that involved a person who does not have a travel history or any known contact with a traveler or infected person.

Palo Alto and Santa Clara County are in the San Francisco Bay area.

Trump says coronavirus is Democrats' 'new hoax'

NORTH CHARLESTON, S.C. — At a political rally Friday, President Donald Trump insisted the government's response to the global coronavirus epidemic was "magnificently organized" and argued that foes in the Democratic Party ere exaggerating its dangers for political gain.

"This is their new hoax,” Trump told supporters on the eve of the state's Democratic primary. "Now the Democrats are politicizing the coronavirus."

Attacking the White House’s response to the coronavirus has become the Democrats' "single talking point," he claimed.

The president has contradicted his own health officials on the potential of the disease's domestic spread, which they have described as almost inevitable.

Oregon reports presumptive case of coronavirus

Oregon health authorities say that they have the state’s first “presumptive case” of the coronavirus illness known as COVID-19 and that the patient has no known travel exposure and is likely an instance of community spread.

A local test of the person, who lives in Washington County and is being treated at a hospital, came back positive for COVID-19, but officials are waiting for a Centers for Disease Control test for confirmation, Oregon Health Authority Director Pat Allen said Friday.

 "If the test comes back from Atlanta positive then we'll stop calling it presumptive and say it's a positive case," Allen said. "But the guidance from CDC is we should treat a presumptive case as a case until we have any further information."

The patient's age, gender or condition was not released, but they are an adult.

Allen said the person spent time in the Forest Hills Elementary School in Clackamas County but would not be more specific because of patient privacy.

Contact tracing is being conducted and is a top priority, Allen said. Health officials say they are prepared for cases of the coronavirus illness in Oregon.

Game Developers Conference postpones San Francisco event amid coronavirus spread

Organizers of the Game Developers Conference scheduled for next month in San Francisco have postponed the event amid a coronavirus outbreak that has spread from China to countries around the world.

Organizers in an announcement Friday did not explicitly mention the coronavirus or the illness caused by it, COVID-19.

But the announcement comes after Amazon Web Services pulled out of the conference because of concerns over COVID-19. The company called it a difficult decision. Microsoft, which makes the popular Xbox system, also announced it would withdraw.

"We fully intend to host a GDC event later in the summer," Organizers of the Game Developers Conference said.

Semester at Sea students fear being stuck on ship as coronavirus spreads around globe

Some 550 students taking part in the venerable Semester at Sea program have been trapped on a ship for about two weeks amid the spread of the coronavirus illness known as COVID-19.

"We feel completely confined, there's nothing around us,” student Kylie Menish said in a phone call from somewhere in the middle of the Indian Ocean. "It’s kind of an awful feeling not knowing exactly what the plan is."

Menish said they took off from San Diego aboard the MV World Odyssey on Jan. 4, and the plan was to make about a dozen stops on four different continents before reaching their final destination, Amsterdam, on April 20.

A spokeswoman for Semester at Sea said officials made the decision to divert from countries on the ship's itinerary "because of decisions out of our control or to give us the best possibility of entry into any future port on our itinerary."

Read the full story here.

At least 50 California residents self-quarantine in homes over potential exposure

At least 50 people in Riverside County, California, are under self-quarantine in their homes over concerns they may have been exposed to coronavirus. 

All had recently visited Asia, mostly China, and arrived in the U.S. within the last two weeks, said Jose Arballo Jr., spokesman for the Riverside County Department of Health, adding that they had not traveled together.

None have exhibited symptoms, Abrallo said. The health department is closely monitoring each resident and checks in with them two to three times a day by text, email or phone calls. They will be monitored for two weeks and can leave their homes as soon as they are cleared. 

Click here to read more about Americans in self-quarantine for coronavirus.

Coronavirus by the numbers, Feb. 28

As of now: The U.S. is at 63 cases, which includes nine recoveries. Globally, 84,094 cases have been confirmed, this includes more than 39,000 recoveries and more than 2,900 deaths.

In the last 24 hours, more than 700 confirmed cases, more than 50 deaths and more than 2,800 recoveries have been reported around the world, and at least four countries reported their first confirmed case.

New California coronavirus case had no connection to others, health officials say

A new coronavirus patient from Santa Clara County, California, had not traveled to China, was not related to two other cases in the region and had not been to Solano County, about 70 miles away, where the country's only other patient without a known source of infection resides, health officials said Friday.

“What we know now is that the virus is here, present at some level, but we still don’t know to what degree,” said Dr. Sara Cody, director of Santa Clara County's public health department, in a news conference Friday.

The two cases of possible "community spread" of the virus could mean that more people may have to stay home from work and school and follow essential hygiene practices, she said.

Santa Clara County officials are working to reconstruct the woman's recent contacts and travels in an attempt to determine where she picked up the virus. 

Dr. Charity Dean of the  California Department of Public Health announced the state has enabled eight public health labs capable of testing for the virus with faster results.

U.S. postpones Asian summit in Las Vegas amid coronavirus fears

WASHINGTON — The Trump administration has called off a major summit of Asian leaders next month in Las Vegas amid growing alarm over the coronavirus, two U.S. officials tell NBC News.

The United States had planned to host a special summit of ASEAN, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, on March 14.

But planning for the trip was abruptly halted on Friday, just as President Donald Trump said he was considering expanding his travel ban to cover countries that had a disproportionately high number of coronavirus cases. “We’re looking at that,” Trump told reporters on Friday.

U.S involvement in ASEAN, which brings together Southeast Asian nations to confer on economics and security, has played a major role over the years in helping solidify U.S. influence in the Asia-Pacific region, as Washington seeks to counter the rise of China as the region’s major power.

Read the full story here.

White House mulls tax cuts to boost economy amid coronavirus spread

The White House is discussing tax cuts as a possible way to stimulate the economy amid a spreading coronavirus, a White House official confirmed to NBC News. The Washington Post was the first to report the news. The official said “lots of options are being explored” to fit different scenarios along with the tax cuts. 

The official said other steps under consideration include interest rate cuts and regulatory changes, but the official didn’t elaborate on how those would be implemented and acknowledged that some options are outside the White House’s control. 

2nd coronavirus case with no known origin in California

The newly announced coronavirus case in Santa Clara County, California has no known source of infection, the county health department said on Friday.

“This new case indicates that there is evidence of community transmission but the extent is still not clear,” Dr. Sara Cody, Health Officer for Santa Clara County and Director of the County of Santa Clara Public Health Department, said in a press release. “I understand this may be concerning to hear, but this is what we have been preparing for. Now we need to start taking additional actions to slow down the spread of the disease.”

The individual is an older woman with chronic health conditions who was hospitalized for a respiratory illness, according to the press release. Health officials are working to identify contacts. 

This is second case in the U.S. with an unclear origin. The first was also in northern California. 

False claims online distort coronavirus symptoms, promote bogus cures

False posts online have distorted symptoms of the coronavirus and peddled miracle cures. Members of the public are urged to follow the advice of established institutions like WHO and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and to beware of claims suggesting ways to prevent the virus.

Read more about some of the claims spreading online, and the facts you need to know about them.

Pence to Limbaugh, who claimed virus is overhyped: 'We're all in this together'

Vice President Pence went on Rush Limbaugh's radio show on Friday to assure Americans that threat posed by the coronavirus in the United States is "low" but "we're ready for whatever may come."

Limbaugh, who has vigorously defended the administration's handling of the crisis, has previously compared the coronavirus to "the common cold" and complained that concerns about an outbreak in the U.S. were being "weaponized" by Democrats and the media.

Pence, who has been placed in charge of the administration's response by President Trump, preached unity and caution in his remarks on the right-wing talk show host's program.

"We're all in this together," Pence told Limbaugh.

Read the full story here.

White House considering special powers to produce more protective gear

The Trump administration is weighing using special executive authority to spur the production of gear like protective masks that could be used to slow the spread of the coronavirus in the U.S., health secretary Alex Azar confirmed Friday.

Read the full story here.

Coronavirus could be 'once-in-a-century' pathogen, Bill Gates says

Bill Gates warned on Friday that the new coronavirus "has started behaving a lot like the once-in-a-century pathogen we’ve been worried about."

"I hope it’s not that bad, but we should assume it will be until we know otherwise," Gates wrote in the New England Journal of Medicine.

Gates' foundation has been promoting vaccine research for developing nations for more than a decade. He noted that the combination of the fatality rate of COVID-19 (the disease caused by the new coronavirus) and its ease of transmission between people make it a serious threat.  

Gates said he is ready to commit up to $100 million to fight the spread of the virus in "low- and middle-income countries."

New coronavirus case confirmed in northern California

A new coronavirus case has been confirmed in northern California, in Santa Clara county.

The county's department of public health announced the case on Friday. They will hold a press conference at 7 p.m. ET. 

Santa Clara county has already had two confirmed coronavirus cases. The two cases were unrelated to one another. Both were in travelers returning from China. At least one of the two has recovered.

The total number of cases in the U.S. is now 63.

Trump blames the media for stock market drops

Trump sought to calm fears and blamed the media for creating the concerns that have led to the declines in the stock market before departing for a campaign rally Friday afternoon.

“It's the unknown, you know, they look at it and they say how long will this last. I think they're not very happy with the Democrat candidates when they see them and I think that has an impact,” Trump said.

He said he was considering whether to impose further travel restrictions on other countries and that he hopes the Federal Reserve takes action following the stock market rout.

After missteps, CDC says its coronavirus test kit is ready for primetime

Some states received test kits that were inconclusive or only partially accurate. Other states said they were hamstrung by testing criteria so narrow, it limited who they could screen for the new coronavirus.

Technical difficulties reduced the number of laboratories in the U.S. with working test kits to only about a dozen, including CDC headquarters in Atlanta. That delayed results for suspected patients and frustrated public health authorities.

But things changed this week. Here's how.

Health secretary: 'Blocking and tackling' to find source of infection in CA woman

Federal, state and local health officials are rushing to investigate the source of a hospitalized California woman's coronavirus infection, health secretary Dr. Alex Azar told reporters on the White House lawn Friday afternoon.

Azar said the investigation would be a "blocking and tackling" effort. The woman, who is hospitalized at UC Davis Medical Center, is believed to be the first case in the U.S. of someone who was infected by an unknown source.

“This is a potential community transmission case because we do not have an evident source of how she was infected,” Azar said. “No contact that we know of that we can trace immediately to travel, say, from Wuhan or in China.”

He also said that very soon private labs will “be able to create their own test based on essentially the recipes that the CDC has used in their test kits,” further expanding the country’s testing capabilities.

VP Pence: The government response is an 'all-hands-on-deck effort'

Sign of the times, cont'd

Kristen Curley, owner of Nitro-Pak, puts items into a backpack as part of personal protection and survival equipment kits ordered by customers preparing against coronavirus at Nitro-Pak in Midway, Utah.
Kristen Curley, owner of Nitro-Pak, puts items into a backpack as part of personal protection and survival equipment kits ordered by customers preparing against coronavirus at Nitro-Pak in Midway, Utah.George Frey / Reuters

Can dogs get coronavirus? Experts: Don't worry.

The CDC and WHO have both noted that at present there is no evidence that pets like dogs and cats can be infected by the virus.

"However, it is always a good idea to wash your hands with soap and water after contact with pets,'' WHO noted on its website. "This protects you against various common bacteria such as E. coli and salmonella that can pass between pets and humans."

Read the rest on TODAY.com.

Amazon restricts employees from non-essential travel

Amazon told employees on Friday to defer non-essential travel. The restriction applies to roughly 750,000 people in Amazon’s employee ranks. An Amazon spokesperson said in an email that they could not speak to timelines for the restrictions.

Google has also restricted travel to Iran, two regions in Italy, and beginning in March it will ban travel to Japan and South Korea. The announcement came as it alerted employees that a colleague had tested positive for the virus.

Nestlé, L'Oreal, Unilever, Procter & Gamble, Coca-Cola, and Cargill are among other multinational companies that have restricted travel in response to the spreading virus.

 

Fed chair: The virus presents 'evolving risks' to U.S. economy

“The fundamentals of the U.S. economy remain strong,” Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell said in a statement released Friday afternoon.

“However, the coronavirus poses evolving risks to economic activity. The Federal Reserve is closely monitoring developments and their implications for the economic outlook. We will use our tools and act as appropriate to support the economy.”

Read more here.

Officials warn about election meddling amid outbreak

Internet trolls backed by foreign governments interested in meddling in the U.S. election could try to exaggerate the threat of the coronavirus to keep Americans from going to the polls in upcoming elections, according to government officials and experts.

Read more here.

The world's largest tourism fair has been cancelled

ITB Berlin, the world's largest tourism trade fair, has been canceled amid concerns over the outbreak, the event's organizers said on Twitter. The fair was slated to take place on March 4.

Is there a right or wrong way to wash your hands to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus?

When it comes to protecting yourself from the coronavirus, masks aren’t the answer, according to the World Health Organization. What is? Something as routine as washing your hands. But it’s not as simple as running them under water with a bit of soap and calling it a day. 

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) breaks it down into these five steps:

  1. Wet your hands (to the wrist) with clean, running water (the temperature doesn’t matter). Turn off the tap and apply a good amount of soap — it doesn’t matter what kind.

  2. Lather up the soap by rubbing your hands together. Don’t forget to spread that lather to the backs of your hands up to your wrists, between your fingers, and under your nails.

  3. Scrub your hands for at least 20 seconds. Try singing the “Happy Birthday” song from beginning-to-end twice to get the timing right.

  4. Rinse your hands thoroughly under clean, running water.

  5. Dry your hands using a clean paper towel or air dryer. Germs can be transferred more easily from wet hands than dry. 

Get more handwashing tips here.

CBS reportedly halts production of 'The Amazing Race'

CBS temporarily shut down production of the 33rd season of the globe-trotting reality series "The Amazing Race" amid fears over the virus, according to an exclusive report in Variety.

The decision was reportedly made out of an abundance of caution. The virus has not affected anyone directly involved with the show, Variety reported.

France sees 'new stage in the epidemic' with 57 cases

French health officials said Friday that a "new stage in the epidemic has been reached" with 57 confirmed cases of the coronavirus, up from 38.

The country is grappling with new cases in Annecy, a city of more than 126,000 people in southeastern France, and in Montpellier, a city of 285,000 near the southern coast, French Health Minister Olivier Véran said. Some of the new cases involve people who returned from organized trips to Egypt.

Veran also recommended people refrain from shaking hands in order to prevent infection, Reuters reported.

Hand hygiene, not face masks, should be main focus for coronavirus prevention

Frequent hand-washing, not wearing a face mask, is the most important step the public can take to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, the World Health Organization said Thursday.

Michael Ryan, the executive director of the WHO Health Emergencies Programme, addressed the use of face masks during a media briefing Thursday. The WHO stance regarding surgical masks being worn by the general public is that only those who are already sick with a respiratory illness should wear them.

Read more here.

Top Amazon search result for coronavirus points to 'herbal prepper'

While Amazon has removed millions of products that made false claims of being able to protect coronavirus, the top result on the platform when searching "coronavirus" on Friday yielded a book written by a self-labeled "herbal prepper."

The book, which Amazon says was published on Feb. 15, includes "what was provable, searching out both media and scholarly articles, with some ideas for pandemic preparedness, plus some herbal knowledge on respiratory ailments," according to the author's website. 

There are currently no legitimate treatments for COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus, and health professionals have warned about an "infodemic" of bad information, both intentional and unintentional. 

Amazon did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Some Americans are avoiding Corona beer, aren't sure if it's connected to the coronavirus

Almost 40 percent of American beer drinkers said they won't buy Corona beer, with about 15 percent of those saying they aren't sure if the pale imported lager has anything to do with the coronavirus, according to a new survey by PR firm 5W.

While the only thing they have in common is a similar name, that hasn’t stopped the beverage brand’s buzz from fizzing as the outbreak spreads.

Purchase intent for the beer has fallen to its lowest in two years, according to polling firm YouGov. In early February the terms “corona beer virus” and “beer virus” trended on Google search results.

Shares in Constellation Brands, which makes Corona and other brands, fell over 5 percent amid a broader market sell-off this week. In a statement the company said sales remain strong and its customers “understand there is no link between the virus and our business.”

Shares in video-conferencing and telecommuting companies soar as more people consider staying home

As tech stocks tumble, teleconferencing stocks are seeing a bump. Zoom Video Communications, known for its online video-conferencing platform, has seen its shares rise 18 percent this month.

Investors are betting that telecommuting tools will take off as the coronavirus spreads, especially in view of CDC guidelines that recommended replacing in-person meetings with video or telephone conferences as a protective measure against spreading the virus.

Zoom Communications isn’t the only company to see stocks increase this week as the country’s three major indices went into correction. TeamViewer AG, a cloud-based web conferencing platform, saw its stock price surge by about 21 percent.

Death toll rises in Italy to 21

Italy's death toll from the novel coronavirus jumped to 21, with more than 820 infection cases reported, health officials said Friday.

At the beginning of the week, there were six deaths and more than 220 people infected nationwide.

Currently, about 345 people are being hospitalized with symptoms, and more than 60 are under "serious medical treatment," said Angelo Borrelli, Italy's civil protection chief.

In addition, the US Pianese, a soccer club in the Italian region of Tuscany, said three players and one staff member have tested positive for the coronavirus.

The scene in South Korea

Image: Concern In South Korea As The Wuhan Covid-19 Spreads
Disinfection professionals wearing protective gear spray anti-septic solution against the coronavirus (COVID-19) at a subway station on Feb. 28, 2020 in Seoul, South Korea.Chung Sung-Jun / Getty Images

State Department: U.S. ready to help Iranian response

The U.S. is "prepared to assist the Iranian people in their response efforts," Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in a statement Friday afternoon.

The offer was formally conveyed to Iran via Switzerland's government, Pompeo added.

Pelosi calls for 'science-based, evidence-based' response

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, speaking to reporters Friday afternoon, said it was important for the federal government to have "a well-coordinated, science-based, evidence-based approach" in tackling the virus.

She also called for "calm" preventative measures instead of "panic."

Google provides insight into public questions about coronavirus

Data from Google shows that people in the U.S. have questions about the new coronavirus, including "how to prepare" and "how many people have died."

The top question in the past week is straightforward: "What is coronavirus?"

But people are also searching for how many U.S. cases there are and what they should do if the contract the virus.

Google

Google's data also shows that search interest has been strongest in Hawaii, followed by areas in and around San Francisco.

From Cannes to cars to concerts, global events face coronavirus challenges

The Cannes Film Festival will continue as planned this year, despite the fact that a resident tested positive for the coronavirus, the organization said on Friday.

The A-list festival, which runs from May 12-23, is the latest major event to face the challenges of the viral outbreak. On Thursday, Facebook said it would cancel its biggest event of the year, the F8 developer conference, which had been scheduled for May 5 and 6 in San Jose, California.

The Geneva International Motor Show was canceled on Friday, and Mobile World Congress, the world’s largest mobile phone trade show, was canceled this month.

However, organizers for SXSW 2020 in Austin, Texas, are currently proceeding with plans to host the annual music, film and interactive festival March 13-22. 

 

CDC: 62 coronavirus cases in U.S.

There are a total of 62 confirmed coronavirus cases in the U.S., the CDC said Friday.

Of those cases, 44 cases are among individuals repatriated from the Diamond Princess cruise ship, said Dr. Nancy Messonnier, head of the CDC's National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases. Two of these cases are new, she said.

Three cases are among individuals repatriated from Wuhan, China.

The remaining 15 cases are among individuals diagnosed in the U.S. Twelve of these patients had traveled back from China and two contracted the illness through close contact with a traveler; the source of one case is still unclear.

South Korea launches 'drive-thru' testing facilities

We apologize, this video has expired.

SXSW organizers: We have no plans to cancel at this time

The annual festival of media, film and music in Austin, Texas, is "proceeding as planned," a spokesperson said. The festival is slated to run from March 13 to March 22.

"Safety is a top priority for SXSW, and we work closely with local, state, and federal agencies year-round to plan for a safe event," the spokesperson said. "Where travel has been impacted, especially in the case of China, we are seeing a handful of cancellations. However, we are on par with years past in regard to registrants who are unable to attend."

The spokesperson added that SXSW organizers were ramping up efforts to halt the spread of the virus according to Austin's public health recommendations.

CVS addresses reports of hand sanitizer shortages

"We're working with our suppliers to meet customer demand for these products," the pharmacy chain said in a statement.

"This demand may cause temporary shortages at some store locations and we re-supply those stores as quickly as possible."

Illinois virus patients have fully recovered, governor announces

Both of the coronavirus patients from Illinois have made a "full recovery," the state's governor said in a news release.

"The immediate health risk to the state remains low," Gov. J.B. Pritzker's office said.

Holy Land Catholic churches to give communion by hand only

Roman Catholic authorities in Jerusalem have instructed their priests to give communion by hand only, rather than placing the wafers on worshippers' tongues, and to empty holy water fonts — both as precautions against the spread of the coronavirus.

The Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem announced the measures on Thursday, shortly after the start of Lent, the 40-day season leading up to Easter. Millions of pilgrims frequent Jerusalem and other holy cities such as Nazareth and Bethlehem each year.

Sign of the times

Image: A pharmacy displays a sign that there is no returns on N95 face masks in advance of the potential coronavirus outbreak in the Manhattan borough of New York City
A pharmacy displays a sign that there is no returns on N95 face masks in the Manhattan borough of New York on Feb. 27, 2020.Carlo Allegri / Reuters

Buttigieg: Virus isn't going to be 'stopped by a big wall'

Pete Buttigieg, campaigning in South Carolina, highlighted the coronavirus as an example of the type of high-level national security issue that will await the next president.

The former mayor of South Bend, Indiana, then appeared to criticize President Trump, saying: "This virus does not care what country it is in. It's not going to be stopped by a big wall."

U.S. intel agencies warned of rising risk of outbreak like coronavirus

The U.S. intelligence community has failed to anticipate some big developments, from the disintegration of the Soviet Union to the rapid rise of ISIS.

But the spies did forecast something like coronavirus.

For years, American intelligence agencies have been warning about the increasing risks of a global pandemic that could strain resources and damage the global economy.

Read more here.

Sanders to Trump: 'Why don't you worry about the coronavirus?'

Sen. Bernie Sanders, campaigning in South Carolina ahead of the Democratic primary there, slammed President Trump for coming down to the state for a Friday evening rally amid the outbreak. Gary Grumbach, one of our campaign embeds, is with the Sanders campaign today:

Obama's Ebola czar: U.S. is 'far behind' on response

White House not ruling out suspending trade tariffs on China in the face of the viral outbreak, says Kudlow

The White House is not ruling out suspending trade tariffs on China in the face of the viral outbreak, National Economic Council Director Larry Kudlow said Friday, noting that he and President Donald Trump have had "discussions" on the matter.

"We do not have any precipitous actions planned right now," Kudlow told reporters at a press briefing.

He also reinforced the administration's position that the U.S. economy is strong enough to withstand any hit from the epidemic, noting that “our threat assessment is low and the economy is fundamentally sound.”

Kudlow also categorized the historic week on Wall Street as overreaction, and said the U.S. had withstood worse. "I don't think this stock market plunge is going to have any long-term effect," he said, though he did caution, "It depends how long this lasts and how deep it goes."

Biden slams Trump's response, but says 'this isn't a time to panic'

Former Vice President Joe Biden, campaigning in Sumter, South Carolina, ahead of that state's Democratic primary Saturday, criticized President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence over reports they have "silenced" medical experts from informing the public unless they check with the White House first.

Biden cautioned that "this isn't a time to panic," but added that the spread of the virus needs to be taken seriously.

Morning rush hour at the Shinagawa train station in Tokyo

Mask-clad commuters make their way to work during morning rush hour at the Shinagawa train station in Tokyo on Feb. 28, 2020.
Mask-clad commuters make their way to work during morning rush hour at the Shinagawa train station in Tokyo on Feb. 28, 2020.Charly Triballeau / AFP - Getty Images

Iraq's health ministry: 2 new cases, 6 total

Two new cases of the virus were recorded in Iraq on Thursday, the country's health ministry said in a statement — one in Baghdad, the other in Kirkuk. 

The total of Iraqis infected with the virus is now six, according to the health ministry.

WHO raises coronavirus risk assessment

Geneva Motor Show canceled as coronavirus cases rise in Switzerland

In an unprecedented move, organizers have canceled the Geneva International Motor Show, one of the global auto industry’s largest public events, due to concerns about the spreading coronavirus.

The 90th running of the show, which was to have begun March 3 with a two-day media preview and continued through March 15, was scheduled to see dozens of new cars, trucks and crossovers introduced by manufacturers as diverse as Audi, Hyundai, Ferrari and Aston Martin.

The decision to cancel the event came as the number of cases of the disease soared, with Switzerland now reporting 15 cases.

The auto industry as a whole has been hard hit by the coronavirus epidemic. Click here for the details.

Image: SWITZERLAND-TRANSPORT-AUTO-SHOW-AUTOMOBILE-VIRUS-HEALTH-EPIDEMIC
Workers dismantle the Audi stand on Feb. 28, 2020, after the Geneva International Motor Show was cancelled.Richard Juilliart / AFP - Getty Images

Switzerland bans gatherings of more than 1,000 people

The Swiss government put an immediate ban Friday on all public and private events involving more than 1,000 people in order to halt the spread of the new coronavirus.

The ban on big events will last until at least March 15, one of the latest major steps by governments to fight an outbreak that has infected more than 82,000 people and killed over 2,700 worldwide. The Swiss move highlights the growing impact of the virus on daily lives and livelihoods.

“We are aware that this measure will have a significant impact on public life,” said Switzerland’s interior minister, Alain Berset.

Pence's handling of 2015 HIV outbreak gets new scrutiny

President Trump's choice of Vice President Mike Pence to oversee the nation's response is bringing renewed scrutiny to the former governor's handling of an HIV outbreak in southern Indiana when he was governor.

Pence reluctantly agreed to authorize a needle exchange program in Scott County in March 2015 after the epidemic centered there saw the number of people infected with HIV skyrocket, with nearly 200 people eventually testing positive for the virus that year.

Despite his own misgivings, he initially issued an executive order allowing one in Scott County before later signing a law allowing the state government to approve them for counties on a case-by-case basis.

Greg Millett, director of public policy at amfAR, the Foundation for AIDS Research, said Indiana's HIV outbreak would have been “entirely preventable” if Pence had acted earlier in response to data that was available to Indiana public health officials and clearly showed an outbreak was imminent.

Read the full story here.

CDC expands coronavirus testing recommendations

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention updated its guidance Thursday on who should be tested. The guidance now includes certain individuals with no clear source of exposure, as well as individuals who recently traveled to Italy, Iran, Japan or South Korea.

The previous guidance only recommended testing for people with symptoms — including fever and cough — and recent travel to China or contact with an infected individual.

For individuals without a known source of exposure, the updated guidance advises testing in patients hospitalized with severe acute lower respiratory illness for which other causes, such as flu, have been ruled out.

Dr. John Torres on simple steps to protect against coronavirus

Dow falls 1,000 points for third time this week on heightened coronavirus fears

The stock market cratered again on Friday, marking the seventh day of a massive sell-off sparked by rising fears about the coronavirus epidemic.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average plunged by another 1,000 points Friday morning, on the heels of Thursday's historic decline of 1,190, the biggest drop ever for the blue-chip index. The S&P 500 was down by 3.7 percent in early-morning trading on Friday, and the Nasdaq saw losses averaging 3.5 percent.

The meltdown comes as traders appear to lose any hope that the spread of the highly infectious disease has been staunched, with the number of cases continuing to spiral globally.

Mexico confirms its first two cases of coronavirus

Mexico's assistant health secretary announced Friday that the country now has two confirmed cases of the new coronavirus.

Hugo Lopez-Gatell said one of the patients is in Mexico City and the other in the northern state of Sinaloa, and neither is seriously ill.

At least five family contacts of the first patient have been placed in isolation. He said one of the men had contact with someone who had traveled to northern Italy where there has been an outbreak.

Brazil on Wednesday confirmed Latin America's first confirmed case of the new coronavirus in a man who traveled to Italy this month.

Mulvaney says coronavirus will probably force some schools to close

Acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney said Friday that some schools "probably" will have to close because of the coronavirus.

"Are you going to see some schools shut down? Probably," Mulvaney said at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in Oxon Hill, Maryland. 

"May you see impacts on public transportation? Sure, but we do this," he continued. "We know how to handle this. And so that's one of the things that you should — that's the message you try and get out. There are professionals who know how to handle this. There's professionals handling it, and we're going to do the very best that we can."

Whistleblower: Feds helping evacuees lacked virus protection

A government whistleblower has filed a complaint alleging that some federal workers did not have the necessary protective gear or training when they were deployed to help Americans evacuated from China during the coronavirus outbreak.

The complaint deals with Department of Health and Human Services employees sent to Travis and March Air Force bases in California to assist the quarantined evacuees. The Office of Special Counsel, a federal agency that investigates personnel issues, confirmed on Thursday that it had received the unnamed whistleblower's complaint and had opened a case.

Rep. Jimmy Gomez, D-Calif., said the whistleblower recently contacted his office, also alleging retaliation by higher-ups for having flagged safety issues.

Although team members had gloves at times and masks at other times, they lacked full protective gear and received no training on how to protect themselves in a viral hot zone, according to a description provided by the congressional office. They had no respirators. While helping the evacuees, team members noticed that workers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention were in full gear to protect them from getting sick.

Read the full story here.

Man on quarantined cruise ship off Japan becomes first Briton to die of virus

A British man who was on a quarantined cruise ship near Tokyo has died from COVID-19, Japan's Health Ministry said on Friday. 

The man was the sixth death on the Diamond Princess, the ministry added in a written statement.

"Out of consideration to protect this persons privacy they will refrain from releasing any additional information," it added.  

Amazon cracking down on misleading coronavirus products

Where did the new coronavirus come from? Past outbreaks provide hints.

As scientists and public health officials around the world scramble to contain the deadly coronavirus outbreak, some researchers are also racing to solve the enduring mystery of where the newly identified virus came from.

The coronavirus, which first sickened people in China in December, is thought to have passed from animals to humans, like many similar pathogens, but nothing has been confirmed yet by any peer-reviewed scientific research, global public health agency or academic expert. Beyond that, little is known about its origin.

Although finding the source wouldn't necessarily help scientists develop vaccines or other direct treatments, it could provide crucial pieces of information on how it emerged and evolved. And scientists are using lessons learned from previous outbreaks to know how to approach this one.

Read the full story here.

Green Day cancels upcoming Asia tour

Green Day has canceled scheduled tour dates in Asia due to the coronavirus epidemic. The band's Hella Mega tour would have taken them throughout the continent in March — and in countries with confirmed cases of the virus — starting in Singapore and stopping in Bangkok, Manila, Taipei, Hong Kong, Seoul, Osaka and Tokyo.

The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductees — who released their 13th studio album "Father of All ..." on Feb. 7 — released a statement which reads: "We have unfortunately made the difficult decision to postpone our upcoming shows in Asia due to the health + travel concerns with coronavirus. We know it sucks, as we were looking forward to seeing you all, but hold on to your tickets we'll be announcing the new dates very soon."

It is unclear if Green Day will continue with the European leg of their tour, which would kick off in Moscow in May.

There's no Plan B for Olympics

TOKYO — Tokyo has no Plan B for this year's Summer Olympics despite alarm over the spread of the coronavirus in Japan and elsewhere with under five months before the event, a senior official said on Friday.

"There will not be one bit of change in holding the Games as planned," Katsura Enyo, deputy director general of the Tokyo 2020 Preparation Bureau at the city government, told Reuters.

Having prepared for years and invested some $12 billion, Japan is eager to quell fears the Games might be called off, postponed or moved to a different location due to the virus.

Though on the decline in China where it originated, the flu-like disease is moving fast around the world, including more than 200 cases and five deaths in Japan.

In a telephone interview, Enyo said organizers were "facing up to" the coronavirus - but it would not derail the July 24-Aug. 9 event. "We are not even thinking of when or in what contingency we might decide things. There is no thought of change at all in my mind," she said.

Coronavirus deaths hit 2,788 in mainland China

China's Health Commission on Friday reported 44 new deaths from coronavirus, compared with 29 deaths the day earlier, bringing the total number of deaths on the mainland to 2,788. 

Forty-one of these deaths were in Hubei province, the epidemic's epicenter. 

Officials reported 327 new confirmed cases for a total 78,882. 

Meanwhile, Hong Kong reported 93 new cases and two deaths.

Hong Kong finds coronavirus in pet dog samples

Hong Kong authorities said on Friday they quarantined a pet dog of a coronavirus patient after its nasal and oral samples tested "weak positive" for the virus, though they added they did not yet have evidence that it can be transmitted to pets.

The dog did not have any symptoms.

The Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department (AFCD) said it will conduct further tests to confirm if the dog had been infected with the virus or if the samples were only the result of environmental contamination.

"At present, the AFCD does not have evidence that pet animals can be infected ... or can be a source of infection to people," it said in a statement.

The dog will be put under quarantine for two weeks.

The World Health Organisation website says so far there has been no evidence that companion pets can be infected with the coronavirus.

WHO says coronavirus outbreak 'getting bigger' after Nigeria reports first case

Coronavirus outbreak is "getting bigger," the World Health Organization (WHO) said on Friday after Nigeria confirmed sub-Saharan Africa's first case, reiterating its warning that the virus could reach most "if not all countries."

WHO spokesman Christian Lindmeier told a Geneva news briefing that it was looking into reports of some people getting re-infected, which would include reviewing how were tests taken, adding: "But in general a person who had coronavirus infection would be immune at least for a while."

Coronavirus crash wipes $5 trillion off world stocks

Coronavirus panic sent world share markets crashing again on Friday, compounding their worst week since the 2008 global financial crisis and bringing the wipeout in value terms to $5 trillion.

The rout showed no signs of slowing as Europe's main markets slumped 2-3 percent early on and the ongoing dive for safety sent yields on U.S. government bonds, seen as probably the securest asset in the world, to fresh record lows.

Hopes that the epidemic that started in China would be over in months, and that economic activity would quickly return to normal have been shattered this week as the number of international cases have spiraled.

Bets are now that the Federal Reserve will cut U.S. interest rates as soon as next month and other major central banks will follow to try and nurse economies through the troubles and stave off a global recession.

Read the full story here.

Tokyo Disneyland theme parks closed

The two Disney-branded theme parks in Tokyo are to close for two weeks as a precaution against the spread of the coronavirus, the operator said on Friday. 

"Tokyo Disneyland and Tokyo DisneySea have decided to proceed with an extraordinary closure from Saturday, Feb. 29, 2020, through Sunday, Mar. 15," the operator said in a statement posted to its Japanese website. "The reopening date is scheduled for March 16 (Monday), but we will contact closely with the relevant administrative organs and will inform you again."

BTS calls off South Korean concerts because of outbreak

SEOUL, South Korea — K-pop superstar group BTS has canceled a series of planned concerts in Seoul in April over concerns about a soaring viral outbreak in South Korea, its management agency announced Friday.

“We regret to announce that the BTS MAP OF THE SOUL TOUR ... has been cancelled," the Seoul-based Big Hit Entertainment said in a statement.

It said the COVID-19 "outbreak has made it impossible at this time to predict the scale of the outbreak during the dates of the concert in April.”

The seven-member boy band was scheduled to perform April 11-12 and April 18-19 at Seoul’s Olympic Stadium. The concerts would have involved a number of global production companies and a large number of foreigners among its expert crew, with more than 200,000 concertgoers expected, according to the agency.

South Korean media described the concerts as the inaugural Seoul leg of BTS's new world tour.

“We must take into consideration the health and safety of hundreds of thousands of guests as well as our artists and the dire impact a last-minute cancellation may have on guests from overseas, production companies and staff,” the agency said.

It said it has determined it is "unavoidable that the concert must be cancelled without further delay.”

The agency said its decision was also meant to support the South Korean government’s push to restrict massive public events.

The coronavirus that causes the new illness has infected more than 2,000 people and killed 13 others in South Korea in the largest outbreak outside mainland China.

BTS has a large international following and was the first K-pop act to debut atop the Billboard Album chart in 2018 with “Love Yourself: Tear.”

The latest coronavirus numbers

As of now: 83,000-plus confirmed cases of COVID-19, with 2,857 deaths reported. There are now more than 40 countries with confirmed cases, up from 30 a week ago.

Of the new coronavirus cases in the last 24 hours, 327 were reported in mainland China and 969 were reported in the rest of the world. Also in the last 24 hours, 3,622 people in mainland China recovered from the virus, according to China's National Health Commission.

CDC investigating reported delay in COVID-19 test for California patient

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Thursday it is concerned about reports that there was a delay caused by the federal agency in testing a California coronavirus patient who has been diagnosed with COVID-19, in what may be the first case of community spread in the United States.

The CDC says it is investigating carefully, but a preliminary review of its records indicates the first time the centers were informed of the case was Sunday, and samples were ordered for testing that same day. 

Two top officials with UC Davis Health said in a memo to staff Wednesday that after the patient was transferred to its Sacramento medical center on Feb. 19, "our team asked public health officials if this case could be COVID-19. We requested COVID-19 testing by the CDC."

"Since the patient did not fit the existing CDC criteria for COVID-19, a test was not immediately administered. UC Davis Health does not control the testing process," the memo stated. It said the CDC ordered testing for the patient on Sunday and on Wednesday the positive test was confirmed.

The case could be the first person-to-person transmission among the general public in the United States involving a person not believed to have been exposed to the virus through travel or close contact with a known infected person.

The "CDC is concerned about reports that testing for COVID-19 for the California patient announced on February 26 was delayed as a result of CDC," CDC press officer Richard Quartarone said Thursday in an email.

"We are investigating this carefully, however, a preliminary review of CDC records indicates that CDC was first informed about this case on Sunday, February 23," Quartarone said.

He said that the federal agency requested samples that day from the patient in order to test for COVID-19 and that samples were sent via courier on Monday and received Tuesday. "Test results were confirmed and communicated on Wednesday, February 26," Quartarone said.

A spokesman for UC Davis Health said no information would be released beyond Wednesday's memo. 

Quartarone also said that under CDC guidelines, testing is allowed for patients who do not meet the specific criteria for testing if clinical suspicion of COVID-19 is high. He said that the situation is "rapidly evolving" and that CDC guidance is being regularly reviewed and updated. 

Outbreak spread sparks fears for American travelers

Some Americans thinking about vacations this spring and summer are reconsidering their travel plans as the coronavirus outbreak continues to spread around the world.

More than 81,000 cases have been reported in at least 40 countries, leaving some travelers concerned as the virus continues to spread.

Summer Mutz, 23, of new Jersey and been looking forward to a dream trip to Europe, where she would see the sights in Rome, Vienna and Paris.

"It’s hard and I have a feeling I’m going to end up going because I’ve been dreaming of getting to Europe for years, and now I’m torn," she said. "Coronavirus is a big, scary thing. Right now it’s fear versus dreams."

After going back and forth on whether to cancel, she recently decided she would save her European vacation for another time when things were less uncertain.

Read more on how coronavirus is affecting travelers and the travel industry.

The new coronavirus hasn't mutated much — what does that tell scientists?

Scientists working to contain the spread of the new coronavirus have noticed something curious about the newly identified pathogen — it hasn't mutated much.

Genetic analyses have shown that the coronavirus has not undergone many significant changes since it first emerged in China in December, according to Timothy Sheahan, an epidemiologist at the University of North Carolina’s Gillings School of Global Public Health.

It's an important detail because that stability suggests why the new coronavirus is effective at moving from person to person.

“Viruses are into efficiency, and if you have a virus that spills over into the human population and isn’t that good at replicating in a person or human-to-human transmission, it may just die out,” he said.

Health officials go into detective mode after new California case

A California patient who appears to be America's first case of a coronavirus transmission of unknown origin has prompted two major questions: How was she exposed to the virus, and who else might have it?

California public health officials on Thursday said they are trying to find those answers through contact tracing, a process that entails tracking down anyone in recent weeks who might have had contact with the patient, a woman whose identity they are not revealing.

Dr. Sonia Angell, director of the state's Department of Public Health, said at a news conference that since Wednesday — when the test came back positive for the coronavirus — local, state and federal health officials have been "contacting any individuals who might have been exposed, and they're isolating them."

Read more about how health officials are working to track down the source of the infection.

Dow plunges nearly 1,200 points as coronavirus fears send markets diving

Wall Street suffered brutal losses on Thursday, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average swinging wildly through more than 1,000 points before closing with a loss of 1,200 points for the worst week since the financial crisis.

The Dow has now lost more than 3,200 points this week, or 10 percent, including a decline of 1,031 points on Tuesday and 879 points on Wednesday.

The S&P 500 fell by 4.4 percent and the Nasdaq Composite was down by around 4.6 percent. Transport-related stocks, tech stocks, and the energy sector all took the heaviest hits, as fears spread that the coronavirus epidemic would strangle global movement.

Read more here.

U.S. could see some empty shelves by mid-April if coronavirus epidemic worsens

Coronavirus has the potential to become a global pandemic, temporarily emptying retail store shelves in the coming months and depressing some consumer-facing businesses, experts say, with government officials advising families to take measured steps to stock up on certain essentials.

A pandemic is the rapid spread of an infectious disease to a large amount of people in a short period of time across international boundaries.

Ahead of any pandemic, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security says families should check their prescription drug supplies, store two weeks supply of water and food, and have non-prescription drugs and health supplies on hand, including pain relievers, cough and cold medicines, and fluids with electrolytes.

Read the full story here.

U.S. companies will see zero growth this year because of coronavirus, Goldman Sachs says

Earnings growth for U.S. companies will be stagnant in 2020 as a result of the coronavirus, according to Goldman Sachs.

The Wall Street firm revised its earnings estimate for the year to $165 per share from $174 per share, representing 0 percent growth in 2020. That is a dramatic move from the consensus. Forecasts still expect earnings to climb 7 percent this year.

Read the full story here.

Tim Cook says some China factories reopening

Apple CEO Tim Cook said Thursday he is “optimistic” about China’s handling of the coronavirus epidemic, noting that his company has ramped up production as factories in the country have come back online.

"It feels to me that China is getting the coronavirus under control," Cook told Fox Business Network in an interview from Alabama, his home state. "You look at the numbers, they're coming down day by day by day. And so I'm very optimistic there."

"When you look at the parts that are done in China, we have reopened factories, so the factories were able to work through the conditions to open, they're reopening," Cook said. "They're also in ramp. So I think of this as sort of the third phase in getting back to normal, and we're in phase three of the ramp mode."

Apple warned last week that it would not meet its guidance for the next quarter due to the epidemic. The trillion-dollar company has seen billions wiped off its value since the outbreak of the virus. Twenty percent of Apple’s iPhone sales come from China, and 50 percent of the product build happens there.

Facebook has canceled its yearly F8 developer conference, one of the company's signature events.

“This was a tough call to make -- F8 is an incredibly important event for Facebook and it’s one of our favorite ways to celebrate all of you from around the world -- but we need to prioritize the health and safety of our developer partners, employees and everyone who helps put F8 on,” Facebook's director of platform partnerships, Konstantinos Papamiltiadis, wrote in a blog post.

Papamiltiadis wrote that the company is planning to host a series of local events and livestreams in place of the event.

Sen. McConnell eyes getting funding package through Congress in next two weeks

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-KY, applauded the Trump administration’s response to the coronavirus, saying, “There seems to be little question that COVID-19 will eventually cause some degree of disruption here.” 

And McConnell criticized Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-NY, for criticizing the funding request by President Trump, calling it “a strange and clumsy effort to override normal, bipartisan appropriations talks before they even happen and replace them with top-down partisan posturing.”

McConnell said that the bipartisan leaders of the House and Senate Appropriations Committees are working on a funding package in response to the WH request, and is hoping to pass it through Congress in the next two weeks.

Pelosi says lawmakers 'close' to reaching a deal on coronavirus emergency response money

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., told reporters at a news conference on Thursday that officials are "coming close" to a bipartisan agreement on emergency funding for the U.S. coronavirus response. 

Pelosi also criticized the Trump administration's response to the virus as "opaque and often chaotic."

Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said in a joint statement Thursday any emergency funding proposal must include provisions to ensure that President Donald Trump cannot transfer any of the money to other priorities; that vaccines are affordable and available to those who need them; that interest-free loans are available to small businesses hurt by the outbreak; and that state and local governments are reimbursed for the costs of assisting federal agencies in the response.

“The United States government must do more to address the spread of the deadly coronavirus in a smart, strategic, and serious way, and we stand ready to work in a bipartisan fashion in Congress and with the administration to achieve this necessary goal," the Democratic leaders said.

'The president is right' to compare coronavirus prevention to flu, WHO chief says

The director-general of the World Health Organization said that President Donald Trump was right when he compared some approaches to preventing the coronavirus to the flu.

"You treat this like a flu," Trump said Wednesday at a news briefing. "You want to wash your hands a lot, you want to, if you're not feeling well, if you feel you have a flu, stay inside."

WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus agreed with this advice. 

"If I am asked to advise the communities to prevent this virus, I would give them the same advice as what you give to flu: wash your hands with water and soap, and also don't rub your face, and also six feet distance," Tedros said during a media briefing Thursday. "I think with that regard, especially absent of vaccines and so on, in people taking care of themselves, it's the same."

Tedros added, "Scientifically, you can say it's not flu." 

But "there are many things in common, and you can prevent it using the basic things we use to prevent flu, so the president is right to say that," he said. 

Dr. Anne Schuchat, the principal deputy director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, offered similar advice at the news conference Wednesday as Trump.

"The coronavirus that we’re talking about is a respiratory virus. It’s spread in a similar way to the common cold or to influenza," Schuchat said. "Those everyday sensible measures that we tell people to do every year with the flu are important here. Covering your cough, staying home when you’re sick, and washing your hands." 

Right now, one of the biggest differences between the coronavirus and the flu is that while the flu is well understood, predictable and has a vaccine, there are many unknowns about the coronavirus. 

"We don't know this virus," Dr. Bruce Alyward, leader of the WHO joint mission with China to study the virus, said at a news briefing Tuesday. "We don't know what's going to happen next."

Students at Prince George’s school are being tested for coronavirus

Some students at the London school attended by the U.K.'s Prince George and Princess Charlotte have stayed home as they await test results for coronavirus, NBC News has confirmed.      

Although the exact number of children staying home is not known, Thomas's Battersea school remains open.

It is unclear whether the son and daughter of Prince William, Britain's second in line to the thrown, and Kate, the Duchess of Cambridge, have stayed home. George, 6, and Charlotte, 4, are the great grandchildren of Queen Elizabeth II.      

Most London schools are asking students who have visited China or other areas impacted by the virus to stay home if they exhibit any flu-like symptoms. 

U.S. firms in China expect a reduction in revenues

Nearly half of U.S. businesses based in China expect to lose revenues if the effects of the coronavirus outbreak continue after Apr. 30, according to a survey by the American Chamber of Commerce in the country.

The results showed that 10 percent of its 169 member companies were losing at least 500 thousand yuan ($71,345) per day because of the COVID-19 outbreak. 

One in five respondents predicted 2020 revenues will decline by more than 50 percent if the virus epidemic extends through August 30. 

Muslim pilgrims wear masks at the Grand Mosque in Mecca

Image:  Mecca
Muslim pilgrims wear masks at the Grand Mosque in Saudi Arabia's holy city of Mecca on Feb. 27, 2020. Saudi Arabia suspended visas for visits to Islam's holiest sites for the "umrah" pilgrimage, an unprecedented move triggered by coronavirus fears that raises questions over the annual hajj.Abdulgani Basheer / AFP - Getty Images

Three senior Iranian officials diagnosed with coronavirus

Three members of the Iranian Parliament were confirmed on Thursday to have coronavirus, according to videos released by officials. 

Ahmad Amirabadi Farahani and  Mojtaba Zonnouri from the holy city of Qom, and Mahmoud Sadeghi from capital Tehran were confirmed to have contracted the virus. 

"In the name of God the compassionate and the merciful, my coronavirus test has came positive. It's an epidemic," Zonnour said in a video. "God willing, our nation will defeat corona and coronavirus will be overwhelmed by our people."

Iran’s Health Ministry announced 245 new cases of the virus on Thursday, up from 139 the day before. Officials also put the number of those dead at 26, up from 19 on Wednesday.

Coronavirus cases jump to 1,766 in South Korea

South Korean authorities announced 1,766 cases of coronavirus on Thursday, up from the 1,261 reported a day earlier, according to the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDCP). 

The KCDCP also reported 13 deaths on Thursday, up from 12 Wednesday.

There are currently 21 confirmed cases within South Korea’s military, Kim Joon Rak, the Director of South Korea’s Public Affairs Office told NBC News on Thursday.

Japan to close schools nationwide to control spread of virus, AP reports

TOKYO — Japan will close all elementary, junior and high schools after a plea by Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, government officials said on Thursday.

The measure affects 12.8 million students at 34,847 schools nationwide, the education ministry said, according to the Associated Press. 

“The coming week or two is an extremely important time,” Abe said. “This is to prioritize the health and safety of the children and take precautions to avoid the risk of possible large-scale infections for many children and teachers who gather and spend hours together every day.”

Image: Children wearing protective masks play at the Ueno park in Tokyo
Children wearing face masks play at Ueno park in Tokyo on Feb. 23, 2020.Athit Perawongmetha / Reuters

The decision comes amid growing concern about the rise in the number of untraceable cases of the virus in northern Japan and elsewhere. Japan now has more than 890 cases, including 705 from a quarantined cruise ship.

An eighth death from the virus was confirmed Thursday in Japan's northernmost island of Hokkaido, now considered a site of growing cluster.

Abe's announcement came hours after several local governments announced their own decisions to suspend classes.

McDonalds workers don protective suits amid coronavirus outbreak

Image: McDonalds workers wear protective suits as they deliver food in the epidemic's epicenter of Hubei province
McDonalds workers wear protective suits as they deliver food in the epidemic's epicenter of Hubei province on Wednesday. AFP - Getty Images

U.S. and South Korea postpone joint military operations

Joint South Korean-U.S. military drills planned for the first half of this year have been postponed as a result of the coronavirus outbreak, South Korean and U.S. officials said on Thursday. 

"The containment efforts of COVID-19 and the safety of [the Republic of Korea] and U.S. service members were prioritized in making this decision,” the military officers said during a news conference in Seoul.

The U.S. military reported its first case of coronavirus on Wednesday at the Camp Carroll Army Base, which is located 12 miles from Daegu, where most of South Korea’s cases have been reported.

U.S. military officials from the Army Garrison Humphreys camp in South Korea provided an update on measures in a video posted on Facebook.

Saudi Arabia halts pilgrimages over virus

Saudi Arabia announced on Thursday that it was suspending entry for the Umrah pilgrimage and tourism from countries where the new coronavirus has spread.

The ban is part of measures to prevent coronavirus from entering the Kingdom, according to a statement released on the Foreign Ministry's official Twitter account. 

Officials also said that the suspensions were temporary but provided no timeframe for their expiry. It was unclear if the hajj pilgrimage, which is scheduled to begin in late July, would be impacted.

North Korea marathon cancelled over coronavirus fears

Organizers of the annual Pyongyang Marathon announced Thursday that the event had been cancelled this year.

"This is due to the ongoing closure of the North Korean border and COVID-19 virus situation in China and the greater region," partner Koryo Tours said in a written statement.

North Korea has not recorded any cases of the virus. 

CDC didn't immediately test COVID-19 patient, California medical system head says

The head of a Sacramento health system says that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention did not immediately test a patient in what may be the first case of person-to-person transmission of COVID-19 in the general public in the United States.

University of California, Davis, Health CEO Dr. David Lubarsky said in a note to staff obtained by NBC News that after the patient was transferred to UC Davis Medical Center on Feb. 19, it asked the centers to conduct testing but the federal agency declined.

"We requested COVID-19 testing by the CDC, since neither Sacramento County nor CDPH is doing testing for coronavirus at this time," said the note, which was signed by Lubarsky and UC Davis Medical Center interim CEO Brad Simmons. (CDPH is an acronym for California’s department of public health).

"Since the patient did not fit the existing CDC criteria for COVID-19, a test was not immediately administered. UC Davis Health does not control the testing process," the two officials wrote in the letter.

Click here to read the full story. 

Deaths in mainland China continue to grow, now reported at 2,744

China's National Health Commission on Thursday morning local time reported 29 new deaths linked to the coronavirus illness COVID-19, bringing the total number of deaths on the mainland to 2,744.

The National Health Commission also reported 433 new confirmed cases by the end of Wednesday, bringing the number of confirmed cases on the mainland to more than 78,497.

Previously, the health commission had reported 2,715 deaths linked to the novel coronavirus illness out of 78,064 cases.

Of the 29 new deaths reported Thursday, 26 were in Hubei province, which is the center of the coronavirus outbreak and where the city of Wuhan is located.

Analysis: Trump's not worried about coronavirus. But his scientists are.

President Donald Trump congratulated himself for protecting the public from the deadly coronavirus Wednesday, reassured Americans that there's a "very low" risk of an outbreak in this country and handed off any future responsibility to Vice President Mike Pence and Congress.

Then, with subtle grace, the highest-ranking career official at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention delivered a slightly different message from the same podium in the White House briefing room: Not so fast.

"Our aggressive containment strategy here in the United States has been working," Principal Deputy Director Ann Shuchat said. "However, we do expect more cases, and this is a good time to prepare."

Trump, speeding to catch up with his administration's public relations response to evidence of a potential pandemic, had just taken the equivalent of a victory lap in the midst of what experts are warning could be an Iron Man race.

Click here to read the full analysis. 

Fact checking Trump on coronavirus

President Donald Trump tried to stick to the facts Wednesday in a news conference at the White House after being criticized for downplaying the coronavirus threat.

He accurately told the nation that the risk to Americans is low but that the country should prepare out of an abundance of caution. He said a vaccine is in the works.

Asked whether he agreed with health officials' view that coronavirus will inevitably spread in the U.S., Trump said: "I don't think it's inevitable. It probably will. It possibly will. It could be at a very small level, or it could be at a larger level. Whatever happens, we're totally prepared."

Read more on what the president said and what the facts are.

Coronavirus case with unknown source confirmed in California

The source of a new case of the coronavirus in California is unknown, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said in a statement Wednesday. 

The case near Sacramento is the 15th in the U.S. not involving a person who was evacuated from Wuhan, China, or the Diamond Princess cruise ship. There have been 45 cases among those evacuated patients, bringing the total in the country to 60. 

The sources of 14 of the cases not related to evacuations are known: They stem either from travel to China or from close contact with another infected person. The newest case does not have a clear source. 

"At this time, the patient's exposure is unknown," the statement said.

"It's possible this could be an instance of community spread of COVID-19, which would be the first time this has happened in the United States. Community spread means spread of an illness for which the source of infection is unknown. It's also possible, however, that the patient may have been exposed to a returned traveler who was infected."

The CDC noted that the case was detected through the public health system.

Why is Iran's reported mortality rate for coronavirus higher than in other countries?

Iran has the highest reported number of deaths from the coronavirus outside China, raising questions about how the government is handling the public health crisis and whether the often secretive regime has been fully transparent about the extent of the outbreak.

Iran's health ministry spokesman said on Wednesday that 19 Iranians have died out of a total of 139 positive cases. And Iran's reported mortality rate — about 14 percent — surpasses the rate for other countries by a dramatic margin.

Click here to read the full story.

Trump to hold White House news conference on coronavirus efforts

As warnings on the spread of the deadly coronavirus intensified and markets plummeted, President Donald Trump announced he will hold a White House news conference on the outbreak Wednesday evening alongside representatives from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and others.

Trump is expected to speak at the White House around 6:30 p.m. ET.

Read more on the president's reaction to the coronavirus outbreak here

Major U.S. stock indexes drop for third straight day

The Dow Jones Industrial Average and the S&P 500 — the two most closely watched U.S. indexes of stocks — dropped for a third straight day Wednesday.

Concerns over a larger global outbreak of the coronavirus have pushed many companies to issue warnings that they could be hit by declines in demand and problems with their supply chains, especially if they are closely tied to China.

The Dow finished Wednesday down 123 points, or about 0.5 percent. The index, which is a collection of major U.S. companies, has lost almost 2,400 points since Thursday.

The broader S&P 500 declined 0.4 percent. The tech-heavy Nasdaq provided some reason to believe the market decline has slowed. It added 0.2 percent.